1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Political alternative

August 7, 2012

Indian experts are skeptical about social activist Anna Hazare's political ambitions who announced last week that he was launching a political party to provide a ‘political alternative’ to his countrymen.

Veteran Indian social activist Anna Hazare
Image: Reuters

Last month, Hazare began another hunger strike to protest the government's lethargy in combating corruption. But his decision to call off his week-long strike took many Indians by surprise. What surprised Indians even more was the 74-year-old anti-corruption campaigner's decision to launch a political party to participate in elections next year.

For years Hazare has been campaigning to force the Indian parliament to approve the Jan Lokpal (Citizen's Ombudsman) bill, which proposes to establish the position of an independent ombudsman, who will have the powers to prosecute politicians and civil servants.

Both the ruling coalition and the opposition oppose the bill and say that no institution should be more powerful than parliament.

The ruling Congress party of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been hit by a string of corruption scandals and is going through its roughest political patch in years since it returned to power in 2009.

Mixed response

Last week, one of the Hazare team members told DW on condition of anonymity that the veteran social activist was adamant to enter politics.

Supporters of Anna Hazare gather near the India Gate memorial in New Delhi
Hazare enjoys support in big citiesImage: AP

"The government has done nothing so far to pass the bill or to fight corruption," said a member of Hazare's activist group. "Now we have lost all hopes in the country's political parties. Hazare thinks the campaign needs alternative approaches," he said, implying that Hazare might form his own political party before next parliamentary elections, which are due to be held in 2014.

"Hazare won't contest these elections, but he will definitely have a huge influence," the activist added.

So what promoted Hazare, a staunch believer in civil society campaigning, to take such a drastic step?

"His anti-graft movement is going nowhere," Munish Goel, a political analyst, told DW. "What we are witnessing now is an impatient 'Team Anna,' slowly emerging as a political force, which has its eyes set on general elections."

Goel said Hazare was a fine strategist and he knew how to build up a movement.

But many in India believe Hazare should abstain from politics.

"It is a face-saving attempt to wriggle out of a dead end," said N Bhaskara Rao, a media expert. “The Hazare team made tactical mistakes. They began with demanding the parliament to approve their anti-graft bill but then focused their energies on targeting 'corrupt' ministers," Rao, who believed that Hazare's support dwindled along the way, told DW.

Political alternative

Some observers think that if Hazare manages to put up good candidates in the next elections, he can definitely make a difference in Indian politics.

India's newly-elected President Pranab Mukherjee, right, and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
Manmohan Singh's government has been hit by a series of scandals in the past yearImage: AP

"Hazare enjoys huge support in big cities. If he ends up winning a dozen seats or more, it would be quite an achievement for him," RS Kini, an Anna aide, told DW.

Hazare told the media that his aim was to provide a corruption-free political alternative to his countrymen.

Some Indian experts think that Hazare's political party stands a good chance of winning the 2014 elections because most Indians are fed up with the ruling Congress party and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Supporters of the Congress and the BJP, on the other hand, say that Hazare and his team has a long way to go before they can become a third political force in India.

Author: Murali Krishnan
Editor: Shamil Shams/Michael Knigge

Skip next section Explore more
Skip next section DW's Top Story

DW's Top Story

A bombed out building in Mariupol
Skip next section More stories from DW
Go to homepage